Fashion

Meet the Filipino-British Designer who is Bringing the Cool Magic of Streetwear to Manila

Ralph Rovero returns to Manila with youthful energy, vim, and color.
IMAGE courtesy of Ralph Rovero
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Even though Ralph Rovero moved to the UK when he was seven years old and even if there wasn't a huge Filipino community in South West London when he was growing up, the menswear designer found himself more and more determined to celebrate where he came from.

Through family, friends, titos, and titas, Ralph, who was born in Pangasinan, learned about his Filipino heritage. “Everyone had a story to tell me,” he says. “And at home, my mom would speak to me in Ilocano so I actually understand more Ilocano than Tagalog.” 

Filipino-British designer Ralph Rovero returns to Manila to debut his "Homecoming" collection at the Philippine Fashion Gala. IMAGE: courtesy of Ralph Rovero

As a Filipino-Brit, he continued his journey, graduating from the fashion design menswear program of the University of Westminister in London and then finding himself and his streetwear designs on the TV series Styled to Rock (produced by Rihanna) and in the pages of GQ Style and Vogue Hommes Japan.

The editorial in the Japanese magazine was a high point as he was vetted by Nicola Formichetti, the artistic director of Diesel and creative collaborator of Lady Gaga.

“I sent him an e-mail about myself and my work and I got a positive response from him. Next thing I knew, [my clothes were] getting pulled for a major shoot in Vogue Hommes Japan... It’s crazy!” he recounts. “What I got from that was that you really just have to take risks and not be afraid to try. I did, and it paid off in the most unbelievable way!”

Recently, Ralph took on another risk when he returned to Manila to show his aptly named spring/ summer 2019 collection “Homecoming” at the Philippine Fashion Gala. The designer reveals that it has always been a major goal to, not only return to the country, but also share his work to Filipinos. “I would have shown much earlier but the timing was always an issue, so I’m really excited...,” he muses. “I’m finally here.” 

His latest set revolves around denim and sportswear, color and geometry. IMAGE: courtesy of Ralph Rovero

Filipino-British designer Ralph Rivero makes clothes that work for men. 

“My clothes have an easy and relaxed wearability to them and are grounded on basic, relatable shapes, fabric textures, and silhouettes for men. I tend to design clothes that don't restrict the wearer in any way so that they’re able to perform [whatever] their lifestyle.”   

His clothes evoke an interesting moment in men's lives.

“My styling of my clothes have always centered around exploring that transitional period of boys turning into men. You know, it’s that reckless youthful persona that guys have and the sensibility of the gentlemen.”  

Ralph's designs are rich in color. 

“Color has always been a strong part of my design identity. It’s a great way to make clothing exciting without overworking the design in the garment itself. For me, I find it the most enjoyable part of the design process. You’re really able to tell a narrative through color.”  

IMAGE: courtesy of Ralph Rovero

Inspired by film directors that use color to tell a story, Ralph's designs use primary shades to great effect. IMAGE: courtesy of Ralph Rovero

He wants to make clothes for all.

“I reckon any guy with a modern sensibility who likes to mix their own style with some sportswear and streetwear pieces would be the guy that I design for, but I’m open to anyone wearing my clothes. I want my designs to be relatable to everyone at least on some level. I want the label to be inclusive and not turn anybody away.”  

Ralph's latest collection plays to his strengths. 

“You can expect a lot of classic sportswear fabrics paired with denim. It shows my love of geometric shapes, lines, symmetry, and strong colors—these are all evident in this collection.” 

The designer pays homage to the Philippine flag in his clothes.

“I was so happy to realize that the geometric shapes that you see in this collection, if you turn them horizontally, resembles the Philippine flag.”  

A nod to the designer's homecoming, several pieces reference the Philippine flag. IMAGE: courtesy of Ralph Rovero

Ralph welcomes the effect of social media on fashion.

“You know, the pace of fashion has become a lot faster, and that's obviously because of the digital evolution and the rise of social media platforms. It’s really [made it easier] for men to have access to fashion. You look at Instagram pages and popular posts, and they’re all filled with streetwear brands, editorials, and influencers that really embrace freedom of expression—that's what streetwear is all about.”  

For Ralph, streetwear allows men to more adventurous. 

“Streetwear has completely changed the way men have dressed. I think it’s really encouraged men to be more experimental with fashion and it helped form their individual identities through clothing. It’s made men make much bolder choices in terms of fashion and styling.” 

IMAGE: courtesy of Ralph Rovero

Streetwear, notes Ralph, is all about freedom of expression. IMAGE: courtesy of Ralph Rovero

He advises men to try color and tricky styles conservatively.

“Start with one piece before going for a head-to-toe color look. And avant-garde looks are always really tricky to pull off as usually they are designed for runway impact, so I would suggest to pair them with pieces that are more relatable. That way you’re able to achieve a perfect balance of high fashion and function.”  

The young designer admires film directors.

“I really admire film directors, especially those that use color as key references to communicate their narratives. Directors such as Greg Araki and Ang Lee do this really well, in my opinion. I’ve always been a sci-fi buff ever since I was a kid, so directors from that genre also really inspire me and the work that I create.”  

The designer instructs men to strive always for a balance between fashion and function. IMAGE: courtesy of Ralph Rovero

For him, fashion is a marathon.

“Young designers I guess have more energy and stamina, and we really just have to take advantage of that while we have them. Fashion is a lot of work and it’s a marathon, so you really have to have a well of energy to draw from.” 

Ralph Rivero wants to learn more.

“I want to learn more about the different aspects of the fashion industry. I want to get first-hand experience in everything, from writing to photography to stage lighting. That way I would have a better and more honest understanding about the creative aspects when working with other people.”

'Streetwear has completely changed the way men have dressed. I think it’s really encouraged men to be more experimental with fashion.' IMAGE: courtesy of Ralph Rovero
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Clifford Olanday
Associate Editor, Esquire Philippines
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